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ME 397

Quicklook Assessment
March 27, 2001

System Reviewed: University of Texas, Center for Electromechanics

(CEM), Electromagnetic Suspension System
Patent Title: Constant Force Suspension, Near Constant Force
Suspension, and Associated Control Algorithms
Prepared by: Richard Hayes, Jennifer Parks, A.J. Warner, Mike
Simmons, Sung-Yeol Choi
Date of Quicklook Assessment: February 1 thru February 28, 2001
Date Presented: March 6, 2001

The team performed a Quicklook Assessment of the
University of Texas, Center for Electromechanics
(CEM) Electromagnetic Suspension System developed
for a High Mobility Multi Wheeled Vehicle
(HMMWV). During the Quicklook the team examined:
CEMs technology; competing technology; intellectual
property issues; and market potential and market issues.
Information was gathered from a variety of sources
including: direct interviews (see appendix); literature
searches; Internet searches; and a field demonstration of
the technology. Based on this information the team has
made a number of conclusions and recommendations
that are presented in the final section of this document.

CEM Suspension Actuator

Technology Description
Suspension Technology Background
Typical automotive suspension systems require a compromise between a great ride and great
handling. On one end of the spectrum, luxury cars provide a good ride but tend to wallow
through corners and braking events, and sway during rapid lane changes. Sports cars, at the
other end of the spectrum, maintain precise control in fast turns, lane changes and braking, but
tend to have harsh, bumpy rides. The reason for this is two fold. The first is that the suspension
characteristics required for a comfortable ride are different than those required for precise
handling. The second is that most available suspension systems are passive, with characteristics
that cannot respond rapidly to changing driving conditions.

At the extreme, passive systems offer two choices. Soft suspensions, that absorb short duration,
low amplitude events such as bumps in the road, are used for luxury automobiles, which spend
most of their lives on smooth highways. Stiff suspensions, which are better at controlling longer
duration events, are used for sports cars that demand precise handling to the detriment of ride
quality. (Stiffer suspensions are also now being used on SUVs, to prevent intolerable roll during
cornering, but due to the high center of gravity of these vehicles they still have marginal
handling capabilities and the stiffer suspension gives them a poor ride as well.) Family sedans
take the middle ground, offering adequate ride and handling while not excelling in either area.
Semi-active suspension systems are now offered on a number of higher end vehicles both in the
luxury car and sports car markets. These systems typically offer some type of controlled
damping that can be adjusted manually (a switch on the dash to select highway or sport
suspension) or is adjusted automatically based on sensors, which monitor driving conditions.
While these systems do offer some overall improvement in performance they are limited in that
they often have only two available ride settings and, because they cannot add any force into the
system, they cannot truly optimize both ride and handling.
Active suspension systems can provide force in either direction and provide optimal
performance, yielding a great ride and handling at the same time. While a number of developers
have worked on these systems over the past twenty years, no fully active systems are currently
offered on production vehicles.
CEMs Active Suspension Technology
The system reviewed in this assessment is a fully active system developed by the University of
Texas Center for Electromechanics for use on a High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle
(HMMWV). The system consists of four primary components: the electomechanical actuators;
sensors; a controller; and a power supply. The system replaces the passive dampers (shock
absorbers) at each wheel with active electromechanical actuators. While the dampers in a
passive system merely absorb and dissipate energy, the active system can apply a force in either
direction, effectively lifting or lowering the vehicle chassis (sprung mass) with respect to the
wheels. The required output force is determined by a controller that continuously monitors
vehicle motion through sensors located at all four wheel locations and attempts to maintain
constant force on the vehicle chassis, adding or removing force as required.
The vehicle mass in the CEM system is supported by mechanical coil springs just as it is on a
standard HMMWV. However, in a standard HMMWV these springs must be very stiff to
prevent the pitch and roll typically encountered during braking and turning, and to prevent the
suspension system from over traveling its limits and bottoming out. Because the active system
can control these relatively slow events, the mechanical springs on the active suspension
equipped HMMWV can be replaced with softer springs, providing a more comfortable ride.
Because the weight of the vehicle is supported by the passive mechanical springs, just as in a
HMMWV with a passive suspension system, the electromechanical actuators are only providing
force when needed. Surprisingly, this is not the approach most active suspension developers
have taken in the past. Previous designs have typically required the actuators to carry a
significant portion of the vehicle weight, resulting in substantial energy usage. Not only does the
CEM system not require a significant energy input, it is actually regenerative. That is, the
system returns power to the power supply approximately half the time. As a result of the
regenerative capability of the system, initial tests indicate that, in off road conditions, vehicles

equipped with the CEM system yield significant fuel savings when compared to a passive system
(which dissipates absorbed damper energy as heat).

Potential Benefits
The CEM active suspension system has demonstrated a one hundred percent improvement in
performance (30 MPH vs. 15 MPH) on the HMMWV during off road testing by the Army at
their Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. In addition to the increased cross-country speed, driver
comfort is improved as well by reducing the vibrations transmitted to the vehicle body. Fuel
savings in off road conditions are also indicated, but the extent of these savings have not been
accurately measured. While other vehicles, such as police cars and ambulances will likely not
see significant fuel savings, the active suspension system will greatly improve ride and handling
in those applications with the added ability to safely traverse potholes, speed bumps and other
obstacles with minimal shock loading on the vehicle and driver. The ability to operate police
vehicles safely at higher speeds under a wider variety of operating conditions and with reduced
driver fatigue is viewed as a significant benefit. Passenger cars and SUVs, while less demanding
in their requirements, will benefit from enhanced ride and better handling during typically
encountered driving conditions.
100% performance improvement in off-road terrain
Significantly improved safety as a result of better vehicle control
Reduced fuel consumption in off-road conditions
Vehicle more suitable as a platform for sophisticated electronics
Reduced wear and tear on vehicle body and subsystems
Improved high speed handling
Reduced driver fatigue and increased driver/passenger comfort

Development Status
After receiving a patent in 1997, the CEM active suspension system was implemented and tested
on a HMMWV, during proof testing at the Armys Yuma Proving Grounds. During those tests,
with the Armys test driver at the wheel, the active suspension equipped HMMWV was able to
traverse off road terrain at twice the speed of a conventional HMMWV with a significant
reduction in vibration transmitted to the driver. Additional performance and fuel economy tests
are scheduled for the coming months. However, based on the initial round of testing, Army
representatives have stated that the performance of this system meets or exceeds their needs and
expectations, and far exceeds those of any other system they have tested.
A second system using identical actuators was fabricated and installed on a hybrid electric transit
bus under funding from the Department of Transportation. Demonstration and field-testing of
that system will be completed in the coming months following the implementation of a new
control system (unrelated to the suspension system). A third system is now in the design phase
for an advanced Army scout vehicle that has experienced unstable handling in off road terrain.

Patent Status
The University of Texas Center for Electromechanics has been granted a patent on the
electromagnetic suspension system. The claims in the patent include the use of hydraulic,
pneumatic, or electomechanical actuators in conjunction with a mechanical or pneumatic spring
to maintain a constant or near constant force on the vehicle body. The claims also include the
use of a controller which utilizes a number of transducers to sense the vehicle body motion and
control algorithms to determine the required actuator forces.
As the primary sponsor of the development of this technology, the U.S. government has the right
to use this technology royalty free. Any other entity, wishing to utilize this technology, would
be required to negotiate an exclusive or non-exclusive license with the University of Texas.
Because UT does not have a predetermined formula for the value of these licenses, the actual
cost of licensing the electromagnetic suspension system technology is not available.

Patent Title: Constant Force Suspension, Near Constant Suspension, and

Associated Control Algorithms
Filing Date: February 26, 1997
Patent No.: US5999868
Issue Date: December 7, 1999
Inventors: Beno, Joseph H.(UT-CEM, Austin, TX)
Weeks, Damon A. (UT-CEM, Austin, TX)
Weldon, William F. (UT-CEM, Austin, TX)
Bresie, Don A. (UT-CEM, Austin, TX)
Guenin, Andreas M. (UT-CEM, Austin, TX)
Patent Abstract: The method and apparatus of the present invention provide
constant force suspension and near constant force suspension
systems and associated control algorithms, all of which may
be utilized in vehicle suspension systems. By using the
apparatus of the present invention, a vehicle may be isolated
from the motion of a wheel as it follows rough terrain,
thereby improving ride quality.

The CEM system is an active or "high-bandwidth" system, which means that it can manage
vibrations caused by a wide range of sources (at a wide range of frequencies), including
acceleration, cornering, sudden stops, and rough road conditions. Other labs and manufacturers
have developed semi-active and passive suspension systems that are "low-bandwidth" systems,
which can apply a force in one direction at most and rely on some passive elements. These
systems cannot accommodate the full range of vibration sources that vehicles encounter and
typically only provide a benefit during low frequency events such as cornering or braking.
While some of the potential competitors listed below claim to have developed active suspension
systems, the fact is that no truly active suspension system is currently available for sale to the
public. Based on research and interviews, Lotus is the only other company that was verified to

have an active suspension in development. During an interview, a system rumored to be in
development in Germany for release in 2005 was mentioned, but the team could not confirm this
rumor. Further, the German system is purportedly not electrically regenerative, and thus would
likely require significantly more input power.
Active Suspension Systems
Lotus Active Suspension- Lotus has developed an active suspension system. The technology
used was proven on Formula One cars with hydraulic actuators, and Lotus plans to provide a
variant of the system for use on production vehicles beginning in 2008. This will be a high
bandwidth system that utilizes electro-hydraulic actuators. Lotus claims this system has
relatively low power consumption, 1 kW for smooth roads and 3 kW for rough roads. (1)
The Lotus system may resemble the CEM system because Lotus worked with CEM during initial
development of the CEM system. Based on the limited information Lotus has published, and
knowing that their system is likely to change over the next several years, it is difficult to compare
the two systems. If Lotus should attempt to sell their system in the U.S., the University of Texas
would defend the rights granted to them in their patent.
Semi-Active, or Low-Bandwidth, Suspension Systems
Delft Active Suspension- Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) developed a system that
utilizes a servomotor to adjust the position of a spring attached to a wheel axle. Based on an
interview with one researcher at Delft, the system is semi-active because it can apply a force in
only one direction. The power use of the system is comparable to the Lotus system. (2)
Delphi MagneRide- This technology uses magneto-rheological fluid-filled shocks, which stiffen
the suspension by applying a current. The MagneRide suspension will be included on the 2002
Cadillac Seville STS. (3)
DaimlerChrysler Active Body Control- Although Mercedes claims that ABC is the worlds
only active suspension system, it is actually semi-active. It utilizes hydraulic servos positioned
between the spring and car chassis. (4)
Cadillac Continuously Variable Road-Sensing Suspension (CVRSS)- Available on
Cadillacs Eldorado Touring Coupe, DeVille Concours, and Seville STS models since 1996, the
CVRSS technology uses computer-controlled shocks to vary the dampening. (5)
Passive Suspension Systems
Roadmaster Active Suspension- These kits are sold as after market packages, and can be
ordered from the manufacturer for about $200. They are not computer-controlled and consist of
two variable rated coil springs, intended to assist the rear leaf springs in trucks and cars.



Potential Markets
The Electromagnetic Suspension technology has a wide range of potential applications. While
all of these markets could benefit from this technology, the system development to date has
focused on developing a system for the HMMWV. Furthermore the most effective market entry
point for this technology is a fleet market, like HMMWVs or police cars where price sensitivity
is relatively low. In these cases components can be standardized and the required development
costs spread over a larger number of units. As a result, the greatest near term potential is in the
HMMWV market, followed by police cars as costs are reduced. This conclusion is supported by
an Initial Market Analysis (see appendix) analyzing each of the potential markets identified at
the start of the project. It is noteworthy that the teams original target market was ambulances,
but this potential market did not receive a sufficiently high rating to support future development.
Potential Markets
Military and civilian HMMWVs
Fleet vehicles (police, ambulance, transit busses)
Luxury automobiles and SUVs
Heavy equipment
Earthquake protection

As previously described, the technology was developed for and has been demonstrated
successfully on a HMMWV. Based on published sales information, the military purchases
approximately 10,000 HMMWV military vehicles annually from American General at a cost of
approximately $45,000 per unit. There are currently over 100,000 HMMWVs in service. Army
representatives interviewed for this project have stated that, based on the performance
demonstrated to date, the military may be willing to pay on the order of $10,000 per unit to
upgrade their HMMWVs with active suspension systems.
The teams research determined that the active suspension system could help police perform
their duties in a safer manner by reducing driver fatigue and improving handling during high
speed maneuvers. In addition to these user benefits the market for new vehicles under the police
category was also larger and more focused than the other near term vehicle markets listed above.
Ford and General Motors dominate police vehicle manufacturing in the U.S. Fords Crown
Victoria is the most purchased new police vehicle and has the largest installed base of vehicles
currently in use in the U.S. and Canada. Ford representatives stated that they sell about 65,000
new police packaged Crown Victorias each year. The average lifespan of a police vehicle is 5-7
years. As a result, there are approximately 450,000 Crown Victoria police vehicles in use at any
given time in North America. The new suspension technology can be retrofit onto these vehicles
or made an option through Ford for the 60-65,000 police packages purchased annually.
There is significant volume to extract economies of scale from this potential market and Ford
mentioned that they have no plans in the near future to make significant changes to the Crown
Victoria model. During one of the teams interviews, a representative from the Texas

Department of Public Safety (DPS) stated that the DPS might be willing to pay on the order of
$3,000 for an active suspension system that offered the described benefits.
Beyond these current markets there are a number of additional military and civilian markets
which would benefit from this technology in the future. These include: high end sports cars
and luxury automobiles; third world busses which must travel on dirt roads; sensitive capital
equipment and buildings which must be protected from earthquakes; ambulances and other
emergency vehicles; and farm and construction equipment which is operated in rugged off road
conditions. All of these markets have significant potential and should be examined as a core
business is built around the two identified near term markets. If cost can be brought down over
time as volume increases there is a huge market in mid priced automobiles.

Market Interest
The military recognizes the need for improved suspensions on the HMMWV as well as other
military vehicles that must be used off-road. Their primary concern is the safety of the military
personnel using these vehicles. It was their identification of this need, and the willingness to
fund research in this area, that resulted in the development of the CEM active suspension system.
The proven ability of an active suspension equipped HMMWV to travel at twice its normal
speed in off road terrain substantially exceeds the benefits offered by any other system currently
available. Based on initial conversations with a limited number of military representatives, the
military would be willing to pay a significant premium (on the order of $10,000) for the benefits
offered by the CEM system if it proves to be reliable.
To determine the interest of police in this new technology, the Fleet Procurement Manager for
the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was contacted. While the DPS representative was
not aware of the active suspension system he noted that any development which could reduce
vibration and driver fatigue in police cars would increase safety. He also stated that mobile
computers will be installed in DPS vehicles over the next two to three years, increasing the need
for additional vehicle stability. As the main chief manufacturer of police vehicles,
representatives from Ford Motor Company marketing and research divisions were also contacted
and noted that Ford had worked on this technology during the late1980s and early 1990s before
abandoning their efforts based on cost concerns. They expressed interest in reviewing the CEM
technology and in potentially applying the new technology to improve the handling of their

Potential Barriers
Patent Infringement- A number of patents for semi-active and active suspension systems have
been issued over the past twenty years. Anyone developing a new system would face a difficult
barrier in developing one that did not infringe on one of the existing patents. CEM was able to
overcome this by developing a truly unique system (and solution to the problem) that produces
force in both directions. Based on the teams research, the CEM patent (see Patent Status)
appears to be unique and very broad in scope. This would make it difficult for anyone else to
market a system with all of the benefits of the CEM system in the U.S. (The CEM patent is not a
world wide patent but this is not seen as a significant issue due to the primary market for the
system being based in the U.S.)

Production Costs- Achieving an acceptable market cost is the most significant barrier
preventing any group from penetrating the passenger car market with an active suspension
system. Ford representatives cited this during interviews as the primary reason Ford halted
development of active suspensions. The team intends to overcome this barrier by focusing
initially on the military market which the CEM system, unlike any competing systems, has been
developed for and where its benefits have been proven. By initially focusing on the least price
sensitive markets, (military and police vehicles) before attempting to penetrate the passenger car
market, production costs can be reduced over time while market acceptance is gained.
Additionally, by working with applications where significant quantities would be ordered
simultaneously (such as outfitting several thousand HMMWVs) the investment in production
tooling required to reduce costs can be justified.
Reliability- Reliability is critical for market acceptance of active suspension systems by the
general public. The CEM system has a distinct advantage in this area, having been developed for
a rugged military application. By focusing on the military market initially and the police market
next, the CEM system, if successful, can gain a reputation as the most rugged and reliable system
available (Tested by the Marines!). Once reliability is proven on HMMWVs and police
vehicles, acceptance in the passenger car markets will be greatly eased.
Development Time/Costs- The CEM system has taken several years and in excess of five
million dollars to go through development and initial field testing. While a number of other
groups have worked toward developing active suspension systems, the team could not find any
published information indicating that any of them are close to developing a commercially viable
unit with all of the benefits the CEM system can offer. The nearest competitor appears to be
Lotus who claims they will have a system available in 2008 but may not be able to market in the
U.S. due to patent infringement issues (see Competition Section). While development time and
costs may not be significant issue for the major auto manufacturers, it, along with the other
barriers noted, would likely prevent any new startups from attempting to enter the market.
Marketing/Sales- At present most potential customers are not familiar with the benefits of
active suspension systems. Again, the CEM system has an advantage over its competitors,
having been developed in partnership with the Army. As the only developer of this technology
for HMMWVs, CEM can assist the procuring agencies in writing specifications that reflect both
their needs and the capabilities of fully active, regenerative, suspension systems. Once these
specifications are adopted as a part of the procurement process, sales and marketing efforts can
be redirected to other areas such as police vehicles and passenger cars.
Service Network- Another potential barrier, to any independent developer of active suspension
systems (would not apply to the Big Three), is the lack of a large enough number of
knowledgeable mechanics/service people for after-sales service. Once again, by targeting fleet
markets, this issue can be addressed. This would not be an issue for the military or for large
police departments that have their own mechanics, but could limit acceptance by smaller
organizations. One way to overcome this obstacle might be to develop partnerships with a
national automobile service company who can provide the physical presence of service people
across the country. If service is required these groups can simply replace any defective or
damaged components with new components and return the failed components back to the
manufacturer for examination and rebuilding.

Commercial Partner- By law, the University of Texas cannot produce or market these systems.
This barrier exists only for CEM and not for other suspension system developers. It is included
here due to the strong influence it has on the success of this technology in the market place. The
teams initial plan is to identify a strong partner to serve as a champion of this technology, with a
well established presence in either of the initially targeted markets and a network of
manufacturing suppliers, distributors and service centers to facilitate successfully transitioning
the active suspension system into a commercially viable product.

Commercial Potential Rating

Based on the information gathered for this report, the team assessed the commercial potential for
the CEM active suspension system in the military, fleet, and luxury car markets. These were the
areas determined in the initial market analysis as having the most benefits and highest interest to
potential users of the technology. The following is an explanation as to how the specific
commercial potential for each market was determined:



Market Potential/Size 40% 1.0

Competitive Advantage 30% 3.0
Development Status 20% 2.8
Market Interest 10% 3.0

Although the military market scored the lowest commercial ratio potential, this is the best market
to initially introduce the technology. The military is willing to pay a premium to implement the
technology. The initial production for the military will allow the costs of the new technology to
be reduced for future applications. The benefits to the military include reduced fuel usage,
improved handling and higher speeds on off road terrain for HMMWVs equipped with the
superior suspension system. The military market potential received the low score of 1.0 because
of the limited number of HMMWVs produced each year (10,000), but the competitive
advantage, development status, and market interest received the highest scores. The competitive
advantage and benefits of the CEM system has been proven and verified already in Army testing.
Although the market is small, the fact that the military is willing to pay a premium for this
system overcomes the small market potential as a means to reaching larger and more lucrative
markets further down in the development and commercialization process. The sales revenue and
feedback from the military market will help the technology advance to the next level.


Market Potential/Size 40% 2.0

Competitive Advantage 30% 2.5

Development Status 20% 2.0
Market Interest 10% 2.5

The police fleet market is at least six times larger than the initial military market. Ford-designed
vehicles are the principle vehicles used by police departments throughout North America. The
commercial potential of the police fleet market is seen as quite strong with a composite score of
2.3. The police vehicles all use the same chassis and will allow the modified technology from
the military market to be used over a large number of new and currently used vehicles. There are
450,000 vehicles in use that could be retrofitted with the technology. The development costs of a
system for police vehicles will be financed in part by sales of the HMMWV system. The
requirement for additional development reduces the development score to 2.0. As with the
military market, the competitive advantage is strong, scoring 2.5 due to the fact that the CEM
system is patented and is the only truly active suspension system currently available. However,
the score is reduced because of the potential threat that Ford could use its in-house technical
expertise to develop a competitive system. Market potential is larger and more stable than the
military market, but there is less willingness to pay a premium for this system compared to the
military. Market interest is reduced to a 2.5 because the police departments lack knowledge on
how the benefits of active suspension systems will help their personnel and improve the overall
driving conditions for officers in the field. Reliability and acceptance demonstrated by use on
fleet vehicles will help advance the technology to the largest potential market.



Market Potential/Size 40% 3.0

Competitive Advantage 30% 2.0
Development Status 20% 1.5
Market Interest 10% 2.5

The luxury car & SUV market achieved the highest composite score of 2.4. Additional
component development is required for these vehicles and there are more designs required to fit
the different types of vehicles that comprise this category. This reduced the development status
to 1.5. Market potential is much larger than the military and fleet markets combined, but this
market possesses great price sensitivity. The production cost for the technology needs to be
reduced using the military and fleet markets to enter the larger and more profitable luxury car
and SUV markets. Market interest, rated at 2.5, is still good in this market as evidenced by the
number of suspension enhancing systems already available and the array of choices for
consumers. Competition primarily comes from inferior semi-active systems, but potential
customers will pay a smaller premium than fleet car users to receive the potential benefits from
the CEM suspension technology. The technology, after going through the military and fleet
markets, will be positioned to meet the lower costs and higher reliability requirements of this

As a well-developed, patented technology, the CEM system is positioned to become the first
commercially available active suspension system. By initially focusing on the HMMWV market
where the technology offers overwhelming benefits, and a lower sensitivity to costs exists due to
the critical needs of the military, significant initial annual sales can be achieved to facilitate

lower production costs. A core business can thus be developed to fund entry into additional
markets such as police fleet vehicles. By focusing on fleet sales for both of the initial markets,
customer education efforts and marketing costs can be minimized. Based on the information
gathered for this report and the resulting strong commercial potential rating the team
recommends that the project continue, developing a path toward the commercialization of this
The team also recognizes that as a part of this process there are a number of issues identified in
this assessment that must be resolved to make this product a commercial success. These include:
Quantify Manufacturing Costs- Presently very little work has been done to determine the
production cost of the CEM system and how increased production volume will reduce
manufacturing costs. Production costs are critical to the success of this product and additional
data must be collected to better estimate the production costs.
Verify Fuel Savings- While fuel savings are predicted for the HMMWV system in off road
terrain, the savings have not been quantified in a controlled test environment. If initial estimates
are correct, these fuel savings offer a significant benefit to the Army during wartime by
extending the range of a HMMWV equipped with an active suspension system. CEM should
review existing test data and attempt to quantify the potential fuel savings in future tests.
Identification of a Commercial Partner- As noted, UT cannot produce or market this system.
The attributes of a strong commercial partner should be identified to allow the search to begin for
a champion for this technology. The process of identifying a partner and gathering their input
will likely prove invaluable in assessing the true commercial potential of this product. If it is
determined that no viable partner exists, recommendations on whether to proceed or how to
proceed as a startup should be made.
Development of New Systems- The team recognizes that the HMMWV market is limited and
has suggested that the police fleet market be targeted next. To do that will require additional
system development, further cost reductions, and customer education. In a university setting this
process can require several years. Therefore work to develop a system suitable for police fleet
vehicles should be initiated immediately with the support of an industrial partner.

The teams near term recommendations will be reviewed with CEM and implemented by the
team and/or CEM where reasonable. In addition to these well-defined immediate goals, a
business plan will be developed for presentation to potential partners or investors in the coming